blob: 6a2a2e973080fffa7e9bba49c63e5022068c7a03 [file] [log] [blame]
Linux Security Modules: General Security Hooks for Linux
:Author: Stephen Smalley
:Author: Timothy Fraser
:Author: Chris Vance
.. note::
The APIs described in this book are outdated.
In March 2001, the National Security Agency (NSA) gave a presentation
about Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) at the 2.5 Linux Kernel Summit.
SELinux is an implementation of flexible and fine-grained
nondiscretionary access controls in the Linux kernel, originally
implemented as its own particular kernel patch. Several other security
projects (e.g. RSBAC, Medusa) have also developed flexible access
control architectures for the Linux kernel, and various projects have
developed particular access control models for Linux (e.g. LIDS, DTE,
SubDomain). Each project has developed and maintained its own kernel
patch to support its security needs.
In response to the NSA presentation, Linus Torvalds made a set of
remarks that described a security framework he would be willing to
consider for inclusion in the mainstream Linux kernel. He described a
general framework that would provide a set of security hooks to control
operations on kernel objects and a set of opaque security fields in
kernel data structures for maintaining security attributes. This
framework could then be used by loadable kernel modules to implement any
desired model of security. Linus also suggested the possibility of
migrating the Linux capabilities code into such a module.
The Linux Security Modules (LSM) project was started by WireX to develop
such a framework. LSM was a joint development effort by several security
projects, including Immunix, SELinux, SGI and Janus, and several
individuals, including Greg Kroah-Hartman and James Morris, to develop a
Linux kernel patch that implements this framework. The work was
incorporated in the mainstream in December of 2003. This technical
report provides an overview of the framework and the capabilities
security module.
LSM Framework
The LSM framework provides a general kernel framework to support
security modules. In particular, the LSM framework is primarily focused
on supporting access control modules, although future development is
likely to address other security needs such as sandboxing. By itself, the
framework does not provide any additional security; it merely provides
the infrastructure to support security modules. The LSM framework is
optional, requiring `CONFIG_SECURITY` to be enabled. The capabilities
logic is implemented as a security module.
This capabilities module is discussed further in
`LSM Capabilities Module`_.
The LSM framework includes security fields in kernel data structures and
calls to hook functions at critical points in the kernel code to
manage the security fields and to perform access control.
It also adds functions for registering security modules.
An interface `/sys/kernel/security/lsm` reports a comma separated list
of security modules that are active on the system.
The LSM security fields are simply ``void*`` pointers.
The data is referred to as a blob, which may be managed by
the framework or by the individual security modules that use it.
Security blobs that are used by more than one security module are
typically managed by the framework.
For process and
program execution security information, security fields are included in
:c:type:`struct task_struct <task_struct>` and
:c:type:`struct cred <cred>`.
For filesystem
security information, a security field is included in :c:type:`struct
super_block <super_block>`. For pipe, file, and socket security
information, security fields are included in :c:type:`struct inode
<inode>` and :c:type:`struct file <file>`.
For System V IPC security information,
security fields were added to :c:type:`struct kern_ipc_perm
<kern_ipc_perm>` and :c:type:`struct msg_msg
<msg_msg>`; additionally, the definitions for :c:type:`struct
msg_msg <msg_msg>`, struct msg_queue, and struct shmid_kernel
were moved to header files (``include/linux/msg.h`` and
``include/linux/shm.h`` as appropriate) to allow the security modules to
use these definitions.
For packet and
network device security information, security fields were added to
:c:type:`struct sk_buff <sk_buff>` and
:c:type:`struct scm_cookie <scm_cookie>`.
Unlike the other security module data, the data used here is a
32-bit integer. The security modules are required to map or otherwise
associate these values with real security attributes.
LSM hooks are maintained in lists. A list is maintained for each
hook, and the hooks are called in the order specified by CONFIG_LSM.
Detailed documentation for each hook is
included in the `include/linux/lsm_hooks.h` header file.
The LSM framework provides for a close approximation of
general security module stacking. It defines
security_add_hooks() to which each security module passes a
:c:type:`struct security_hooks_list <security_hooks_list>`,
which are added to the lists.
The LSM framework does not provide a mechanism for removing hooks that
have been registered. The SELinux security module has implemented
a way to remove itself, however the feature has been deprecated.
The hooks can be viewed as falling into two major
categories: hooks that are used to manage the security fields and hooks
that are used to perform access control. Examples of the first category
of hooks include the security_inode_alloc() and security_inode_free()
These hooks are used to allocate
and free security structures for inode objects.
An example of the second category of hooks
is the security_inode_permission() hook.
This hook checks permission when accessing an inode.
LSM Capabilities Module
The POSIX.1e capabilities logic is maintained as a security module
stored in the file ``security/commoncap.c``. The capabilities
module uses the order field of the :c:type:`lsm_info` description
to identify it as the first security module to be registered.
The capabilities security module does not use the general security
blobs, unlike other modules. The reasons are historical and are
based on overhead, complexity and performance concerns.